New York News

NYC police unions seek role in stop-frisk litigation

Thursday, November 07, 2013
stop and frisk

Police unions asked a federal appeals court Thursday to let them continue stop-and-frisk litigation if New York City drops its appeal of rulings following the election of a new mayor who has advocated changing the police tactic to address concerns that it unfairly targets minorities.

The unions representing more than 29,000 of the New York Police Department's 35,000 members filed papers with the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan, saying they want to intervene to block decisions that are "fundamentally unsound."

U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin concluded in August that the police force sometimes carries out the policy in an unconstitutional manner, unfairly targeting blacks and Hispanics. Stop and frisk lets police question people when there is reasonable suspicion that a crime is about to occur or has occurred.

Meanwhile, the city law office said in a statement Thursday that it would ask the appeals court by early next week to immediately vacate the rulings because the court said last week that Scheindlin had violated the code of conduct for federal judges and compromised "the appearance of impartiality" in statements to the media. The judge has said she did not.

Unions representing officers, detectives, lieutenants and captains said they want to continue challenges to two court rulings that found the department sometimes violates the U.S. Constitution when carrying out its stop-and-frisk policy.

"The district court found system-wide violations where there were none and ordered a remedy that would place the NYPD under the control of a federal district judge through an overbroad and complex remedial process," they said.

The unions said the opinions, "if left undisturbed, would unfairly taint the integrity of the 35,000 members of the New York City Police Department and would re-write the rules governing how they conduct themselves on a day-to-day basis."

A three-judge 2nd Circuit panel last week stayed the court orders that had required the department to meet with a monitor, put body cameras on some officers and participate in a community-wide analysis of how the program should be changed to avoid unfairly targeting minorities.

The appeals court also removed Scheindlin from the case, saying she had run afoul of court rules in the manner that she originally took the cases and in statements she made to reporters in interviews while she presided over a stop-and-frisk trial that ended in May. A lawyer for the judge filed papers Wednesday asking the appeals court to reconsider its decision to remove her from the case and to let her defend how she handled it.

The unions noted that the election Tuesday of Public Advocate Bill de Blasio as mayor means the city might withdraw its challenge, especially since he has repeatedly stated that he would order the city to drop its appeal and had filed papers with the district court and the 2nd Circuit opposing the city's effort to stay the effect of the rulings.

De Blasio has said he would drop the appeal but could also settle with those urging reforms, eliminating federal oversight.

(Copyright ©2014 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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